Don’t judge a kids’ book by its cover

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sometimes things happen in life that we don’t want to deal with, like laundry, Michael Jackson dying and a daughter and the “three-letter word.”

I hate laundry. I’m sick of hearing about Michael Jackson. And if you’re a parent, you know what three-letter word I’m talking about.

If you don’t, let the strands of “Let me tell you about the birds and the bees” float through your head.

A few weeks ago, the oldest and I — just the two of us — had a very rare trip to the “big box store on the hill.” We had a mission. I had gotten a new bed and needed sheets, and, as a bonus for her good behavior, I was going to get a new book for her. It was a reasonable request from a 9-year-old, I thought, and much cheaper than a new gaming system — which is really what she’s aiming for her birthday.

It took a little while of her perusing the section until she had it narrowed down to two books.

Looking over her shoulder I quickly came to the realization that juvenile literature is not all about Junie B. Jones, or the Magic School Bus, any more. Now, we’ve got Harry Potter, some strange vampire literature (and I don’t mean the Twilight series) and a whole genre of fairies and dead people.

When I was her age, we read about the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and this Swiss family shipwrecked on an island. There were no fey folk or undead hidden amongst the covers of the Florala Public Library — at least not on the juvenile shelves.

Anyway, she decided to go with a book about fairies. The title, “Wings,” was written in very delicate script on a dark blue cover. A pair of small wings, the book’s only artwork, graced the cover. However, the jacket didn’t mention anything about “he-in’ and a she-in’” on the inside.

I thought nothing about the book or her reading progress until I glimpsed it nestled alongside others at Books-A-Million, and there was nothing juvenile about its neighbors.

I was alarmed to say the least — especially when I remembered she had said she was taking it to her daddy’s for the weekend.

Luckily, as soon as I got home, I found that book on her nightstand and confiscated it and began reading.

I’ve made it to the part where they’re almost three-letter-word-ing it, but not quite, and I’m about 100 pages into a classic love triangle. Surprisingly, it’s pretty good, as far as teen books go — make no mistake, this is a teen book, not a pre-teen book and I have no idea why it was stacked next to the Tinkerbell books to begin with — it’s got decent characters, an understandable plot and, what I can only hope for is, a happy ending.

Still, I don’t think Missy Miss will be getting that book back in her hands any time soon, but the whole experience made me realize a lesson.

I should write juvenile fiction … the market is huge. I mean look at J.K. Rowling. She did wizards. This Wings chick did fairies. We’ve all seen the movie about vampires. That still leaves trolls, mermaids, intergalactic aliens, ghosts … the list goes on and on.